One of these values is the career. The young are no longer interested in one, and the those that have persevered, and accumulated huge college loans, are not happy with the result. They are exploited almost as badly as the factory workers were at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. They are well-paid, by comparison, but they are only part of the machinery, which is constantly being improved. As in the Red Queen’s world, they have to run to stay in one place.
They are only valued for what they can produce. As one software manager from Microsoft once told me: “They have to produce a lot of high-quality work.” She added that she had demanded that they work on Saturdays, to meet a current crisis. This is is not uncommon in the software world; they sometimes work for days at a time with no sleep, right through the holidays. As another friend told me: “The things you have to do in a startup shorten your life”. After devoting their lives to the company, they get replaced by younger blood when they can no longer keep up the pace. They can always find someone who is smarter and harder-working than they are. To put it bluntly: you gotta kiss ass and eat shit. But I see I have digressed.
I should define some terms. In the title I spoke of the new economy, one that is dominated by the financial industry instead of manufacturing. It is also devoted to a free market, with no social controls of any kind. In other words neoliberalism, but I hesitate to use that term because Americans have no idea what it means—and refuse to acknowledge its existence.
In America, we also speak of the middle-class. In Europe this is referred to in French: the bourgeoisie. Americans are uncomfortable with the term; it is too high-brow for them, and their plain ways of thinking.
I defined these terms so you could understand the following excerpts from False Dawn, by John Gray, a professor at the London School of Economics, where George Soros studied too. We like to think of George as one of our own, but he most definitely is not; he is just another shark swimming where the feeding is best—but one with keen intellectual interests.
To read the following, you will have tolerate some academic language, of the British variety. But it won’t kill you. Grit your teeth, and plow on.
Amongst the human needs that free markets neglect are the needs for security and social identity that used to be met by the vocational structures of bourgeois society. A contradiction has emerged between the preconditions of an intact bourgeois civilization and the imperatives of global capitalism. The chronic insecurities of late modern capitalism, especially it most virulent free-market variants, corrode some of the central institutions and values of bourgeois life.
The most notable of these social institutions may be that of the career. In traditional bourgeois societies, most middle-class people could reasonably expect to spend their working lives in a single vocation. Few can now harbor any such hope. (Some American career councilors even recommend a career change every six years. My note.) The deeper effect of economic insecurity is to make the very idea of a career redundant.
In the lives of a working majority, an old-fashioned career in which professional seniority tracks the normal life cycle is barely a memory. The post-war trend to embourgeoisment is being reversed, and working people are being in some degree re-proletarianized.
Although de-bourgeoisification may have advanced furthest in the US, economic insecurity is increasing in nearly all the world’s economies. This is partly a side-effect of global free markets, whose workings mimic Gresham’s Law (which states that bad money drives out good) by making socially responsible varieties of capitalism progressively less sustainable. World-wide mobility of capital and production triggers a “race to the bottom” in which the more humane capitalist economies are compelled to deregulate and trim back taxes and welfare provisions.
Gray is saying some dynamite stuff here. It’s too bad we don’t read him—especially Obama’s economic advisors. If they really understood him, they might really save America—instead of just pretending to.